President Obama Supports Morning-After Pill Age Limit

A pile of small white pillsPresident Barack Obama says he is comfortable with his administration’s decision to limit over-the-counter purchases of a morning-after pill to anyone aged 15 and older, according to the AP.

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Tuesday had lowered the age at which people can buy the Plan B One-Step morning-after pill without a prescription to 15 — younger than the current limit of 17. The FDA decided that the pill could be sold on drugstore shelves near condoms, instead of locked behind pharmacy counters.

READ: The Morning-After Pill: Where It Can Be Sold Now

Obama, speaking at a news conference while in Mexico, said the FDA’s decision was based on “solid scientific evidence.”

Whether or not to lift all age limits on purchasers of the pill is an issue that still has yet to be determined, a topic that initiated a storm of criticism from reproductive rights groups, who denounced it as politically motivated and a step backward for women’s health.

“We are profoundly disappointed. This appeal takes away the promise of all women having timely access to emergency contraception,” Susannah Baruch, Interim President & CEO of the Reproductive Health Technologies Project, said in a statement. “It is especially troubling in light of the Food and Drug Administration’s move yesterday to continue age restrictions and ID requirements, despite a court order to make emergency contraception accessible for women of all ages. Both announcements, particularly in tandem, highlight the administration’s corner-cutting on women’s health,” Baruch said. “It’s a sad day for women’s health when politics prevails.”

The Justice Department’s appeal responded to an order by U.S. District Judge Edward Korman in New York that would allow girls and women of any age to buy not only Plan B but its cheaper generic competition.

READ: Federal Judge Issues New Ruling On Emergency Contraception

In its appeal to this decision, the Justice Department said Korman exceeded his authority and that his decision. Current and former White House aides said Obama’s approach to the issue has been heavily influenced by his experience as the father of two school-age daughters. Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius have also questioned whether there’s enough data available to show the morning-after pill is safe and appropriate for younger girls, even though physicians groups insist that it is.

READ: More Women Turn To Plan B

Social conservatives were outraged by the FDA’s move to lower the age limits for Plan B — as well as the possibility that Korman’s ruling might take effect and lift age restrictions altogether.

“This decision undermines the right of parents to make important health decisions for their young daughters,” said Anna Higgins of the Family Research Council.

If a woman is pregnant, the morning-after pill has no effect, since it’s function is to prevent ovulation or fertilization of an egg. According to the medical definition, pregnancy doesn’t begin until a fertilized egg implants itself into the wall of the uterus. Still, some critics say Plan B is the equivalent of an abortion pill because it may also be able to prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus, a contention that many scientists — and Korman, in his ruling — said has been discredited.

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WHO: A “Global Health Epidemic” For Women

A profile image of a businesswoman against a dark backgroundAccording to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) first major review of violence against women, more than a third of all women worldwide are victims of domestic violence, including physical and/or sexual, posing a series of global health issues of epidemic proportions.

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Women are attacked by their husbands or boyfriends tend to suffer from very specific acute and chronic health problems, including broken bones, bruises, pregnancy complications, depression, alcohol-related health disorders and other mental illnesses, according to the report. Violence against women can also lead to sexually transmitted infections, and alcohol-related health disorders.

The report, co-authored by Watts and Claudia Garcia-Moreno of the WHO, found that almost two fifths (38 percent) of all women murder victims were murdered by intimate partners, and 42 percent of women who have been victims of physical or sexual violence by a partner have injuries as a result.

Additionally, women who suffer violence from their partners are 1.5 times more likely to contract sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, syphilis, Chlamydia, or gonorrhea.

“This is an everyday reality for many, many women,” Charlotte Watts, a health policy expert at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and one of the report’s authors, told Reuters in an interview…it does illustrate this happens to all women, not just poor women, or women in a certain country. This really is a global issue,” Watts said

The WHO is issuing guidelines for health workers on how to help women suffering domestic or sexual abuse, stressing the importance of training health workers to recognize when women may be at risk of partner violence and to know how to respond, including providing private consultation rooms, and ensuring that at-risk women are not sent back home.

In a statement accompanying the report WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said the violence had caused health problems of “epidemic proportions”, adding: “The world’s health systems can and must do more for women who experience violence.”